THIS IS THE END
When writing this report I must constantly refer back to the situation. The situation is ImPulsTanz (and more specifically Rio Rutzinger who supported an impossible proposition as if it were possible). The situation is the people who participated. The situation is my self.
THE FIELD OF INQUIRY
In all of the invitation letters (attached), I write extensively about the specific environment of the festival and pose it as a field of inquiry, a crucible, and a phenomenon. It is not a school nor is it an education program in the sense that it does control the choices of the participants. It is an institution, but one that has the particularity of long periods of dormancy, a natural capacity to change in relationship to the changing "scene", it has an alertness to the developing and changing needs and desires of its participants. I observe that this change is not uniquely in relationship to market forces in the capitalist sense but remains at least partly in tune to the changing currency of affectivity (this includes less lofty forces such as fashion and shifting cultural habits). This capacity of ImPulsTanz to shift itself without feeling threatened by dissolution or destruction is a particular quality of this institution. In my experience there are few places that have this capacity as well as powerful financial means, and platforms of visibility and influence. This phenomenon may bear analysis, but I will not do it, I will just name the force as I experience it. The field of ImPulsTanz I referring to is the workshop series and not the performance series, although obviously they are intertwined.
The workshop series is a wondrous, incongruent field that springs up annually, populated by a heterogeneous community of people whose only commonality is their desire/habit of dancing. The participants include students and teachers possessed of vastly different qualities, who live in sweaty harmony and create a vibrant machine of thought and activity that Has No Conclusion, only an end in time. This relationship to final outcome (ambiguous) seems important to me. The TTT, as stated many times, was designed as a "teacher's web", a phrase that only has resonance and meaning within the frame of ImPulsTanz. The DanceWEB Program at ImPulsTanz affords its participants an experience that allows them to research and confront their fantasies about their dance bodies, themselves as artists and the contemporary European scene. It is intense and dense and joyous and exhausting. Why should this kind of experience disappear after a certain age or position? The life we have as contemporary performing artists is often manifested in short(ish) bursts of activity with intense contact with a community that will disperse at the end of the project. More and more we teach, make work and learn in the time of the “project” and not of the Company or the School. TTT Vienna was born into and of this phenomenon and was quite serious about not responding to criteria that imagine a continual upward hierarchy of defined knowledge. The program, Teaching The Teachers, has manifested in different environments and institutions with very different profiles and goals. This seems appropriate and luxurious to me, but also occasionally disappointing as the initial proposal stipulated that it should be an artist-conceived event. In a few of the other events, artists were of course present, but the motor of the event appears to have been someone who functions as an organizer rather than as an artist as instigator. The difference for me is that an artist will not know exactly the result of the forces put in action but an organizer perhaps thinks that they should know.
The TTT of Vienna was made possible by, enclosed by, confronted by and in relation to the cauldron of dance classes and dance students and dance teachers present in the Arsenal every year. This was a choice. We could have remained isolated in another space. However heady our discussions were, and sometimes there was a great deal of talking, we were enclosed by and contextualized by another sort of activity (lots and lots of dancing), one that the majority of us have founded our lives in. We were always obliquely in relation to a certain aspect of dance, the delightful and devotional Spending of Energy to Generate Energy. I feel that the whole program was a way of testing and mapping constantly the evanescent connections between the many, disparate ways of thinking and perceiving contained in the curious dance artists. These ways and means don't always play well together and neither did we, depending on who was manifesting which manner of thought with whom. The way in which we generally resolved conflict was " trying something": an invented form, a reworked form or an exercise. I realize that this is my method in general, to always return to a relatively simple "doing" in order to assimilate, consider or transform the "excess” of a particular concept, notion or argument. And if I offered constantly a direction to the group it was a belief in this and also a deep confidence in the value of heterogeneous activity. Although sometimes its falling-apartness makes me nervous, I believe in something other than my discomfort. I speak about my own experience because it is the only one I know, however if one goes though the archives one finds over and over again something similar; a difficult-to name sense of having opened the region of our teaching practice that is the most vulnerable, that which escapes our certainty, only to find that it is expansive instead of fragile. We are working in an art form that is transitory. As most contemporary art practices, it redefines itself and shifts constantly. The great difference is that in dance these changes and shifts are manifested and held within bodies, within people, and this creates a particular set of difficulties: a human desire to resolve ourselves, to be coherent and flawless. The TTT was an opportunity for the participants to put this particular problem in the foreground, to experiment with and observe the exciting contradictions that arise within our bodies and the bodies of our students. We were negotiating and sharing our means and methods whilst simultaneously allowing those means and methods to shift. To acknowledge and work with this specialized nature of "knowing" was what we were up to all these many years.
THE SLOW BURN
There is also the quandary of time. TTT Vienna is a slow burn (SB). There is an immediate result, the experience itself; the false end result – which is the report or document; and then there is the Slow Burn. The SB is the continued smoldering unfolding of an intense experience that continues to act as either a touchstone or a surprise influence during the later thoughts and actions of the participants. An SB is rich enough and pleasurable enough that its influence continues and transforms, allowing for different aspects of the activity/thought to come into play when necessary.
It is counterintuitive to think of dance as a slow burn activity. But it is.
I take responsibility for my allergy to conclusion. When one takes the contemporary idea of knowledge production as the true activity of art making, or theory, or even ballet class, there is an uncomfortable urge to construct a sort of knowledge product in the manner of academic research. Some people are great at this. I am not. I am always more interested in what exceeds the first layer of synthesis. This excess is real and a part of the "knowledge". It resists synthesis but continues to act.
If a conclusion is necessary it is this: it is of the utmost importance that people (dance artists in this context) who move towards "expertise" continue to have moments where they support each other in creating instability for themselves. It is of the utmost importance that those who find themselves in the position of teaching are not subtly obliged to ossify their practice in order to conform to an insidious ideal of achievement, which is in turn communicated to the next generation. It is necessary to valorize that which exceeds commodification. It is necessary to sometimes create environments where this excess is respected and not reduced. It is necessary simply in order to continue in our heterogeneous ways and resist isolation and self-commodification. We are already doing it. Meeting, speaking with and teaching the young artists that come as DanceWEBers year after year confirms that these young artists are already working within these “new” parameters. Their problems are different than those of the generations before them. I hear from them that they have no resistance to define themselves against, that they are very aware of creating for themselves a space of friction in order to define themselves and that anyway the solitary genius figure of the artist is suspect. What we are doing in these “ alternative” meetings and teaching and art works is no longer alternative but an actual terrain that we need to continually form so that it exists, and we have new younger colleagues who are there with us. A shifted definition of Knowing needs these different containers to exist. We need to keep it up.
THIS IS AN INDEX
From each year of the TTT (teaching the teachers, take the tonic, touch the tiger, tell the tale...) we made a list of " resonant " phrases or words. Then we looked at the totality of the archives and linked them to these phrases or words. As far as I am concerned this documentation is a compromise. As far as I am concerned this document is compromised. What we did over the past 5 years communicates itself to the rest of the world through contamination and seepage, through influence, through the practice of the participants who yearly opened and delightedly destabilized what they think they know, liked it and passed it on. The methods privileged in all of the meetings, even when sharing and discussing "techniques", were those of affect. And affect is notoriously resistant to conclusion. The members of these meetings were all people who come into regular contact with groups of people looking to learn something. The participants were people who design situations for this community of people who punctually self identify as students.
Our time together was inconclusive, we have not written a manifesto, we have not generated mission statements, we did not decide what a student needs, we did not figure out what the importance of technique is, we did not resolve the power dynamics inherent in the object which is a class, we did not agree on what a school is.
The general tone of each meeting was to deal with a particular question (What is this situation, how can it be done? What is the class as an Art Object? What is the relation between the critical and the somatic? What have we done here, what was it?). The people invited were artists who teach as part of their practice. Within our ranks were plenty of teacher/ artists who mostly identify as teachers but in this meeting their practice was pointedly considered as an art practice: a practice generative of forms that arise from a thought brought into bodily/ relational activity that continues to define or blur aspects of that thought. Thus the focus on class as a space of art displaced both established notions of art and of teaching.
The great quality and failing of the TTT program in Vienna is its chaotic relationship to documentation. This project was a group effort, created and maintained by the participants. We generated a lot. What we generated were our own experiences that then demanded attention during the rest of the year whilst we were teaching or making work. A very few examples: A non-funded TTT spontaneously generated in New York City; DD Dorvillier developed her class, Touch, Move, Talk, Write, which she teaches regularly now; Jennifer Monson reconsidered her relationship to Institution and re-calibrated herself to continue her own practice within her teaching as a tenured professor at the university of Illinois; Janet Panetta created the very beautiful Acknowledgement Project; Alice Chauchat resuscitated an aborted performance project into a rich dance practice approaching the poetics of movement and language; I invented Class Class which encourages students towards a critical practice that lovingly disrupts received training through creativity. All of us stole and reworked exercises and approaches generating a diffused discursive practice. The documents from 20019-20012 have not been formed into a cohesive statement or even a hierarchical organization. A snippet of video conversation = a considered text = a daily diary. Many things are incomplete in that they lack an explanation of their exact context or in that they lack a summation. I must take personal responsibility for this sloppy approach to document. It is a direct resistance to codes of summation or conclusion that do not concern this project, as I understand it. I feel that the strength of this program may be just it's pleasure and the fuel this provides to keep opening ourselves to new conditions. The strength of this program resides in the teaching practice of all the participants and in the students who continue learns from their evolving practices. Those who have pleasure in creating a document that is coherent outside of its context did, and those that do not have this pleasure, didn't. The projects, essays and residuals all have an equal place in the documentation.
The index is becoming a Wordpress blog with hypertext links to the documents that we feel are attached to the word in the index. It was an intuitive and collective process that we did not attempt to agree on. Full texts, half texts, notes, photos, videos and sound files will be available through foraging in the index. I hope that the index method will encourage a quality to the consultation that is appropriate to the nature of this event and its documents.